The embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, has headed for the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which on Friday gave a nod for the party’s National Convention to hold in Abuja on Saturday (today).
He said impunity, which he alleged had driven the party to the precipice and threatened its internal democracy and unity, must be resisted at all costs.
In an interview with one of our correspondents, Secondus said he had instructed his lawyers to appeal the ruling at the apex court in the interest of justice.
He said if those who orchestrated and foisted what he described as an avoidable crisis on the party had listened to “wise counsel of party leaders and elders who advised the withdrawal of cases, this situation would have been avoidable. I wish the party well as always.”
The Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State had on Friday dismissed the appeal filed by Secondus seeking an interim injunction to restrain the PDP from conducting its National Convention scheduled for October 30 and 31, 2021 in Abuja.
The three-man appeal panel ruled that Secondus lacked the power to stop the party’s scheduled convention, pointing out that the national leadership of the party was not an exclusive preserve of the appellant (Secondus).
The court also said Secondus failed to challenge his suspension as a member of the party from his Ward 5 in Ikuru town, Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, a decision it said was affirmed by the State High Court in August 2021.
The court stated that he failed to join the party’s acting National Chairman, Yemi Akinwonmi, in the suit challenging his (Akinwonmi) nomination by the party, insisting that the right which he claimed to be protecting had been withdrawn and given to Akinwonmi by the same party.
Justice Gabriel Kolawale, who read the ruling of the three-man panel headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, also noted that Secondus did not indicate interest in his application to continue as the national chairman of the PDP after being suspended nor indicated any interest to re-contest for the position upon the expiration of his tenure on December 9, 2021, hence the application was a distraction to the planned national convention of the PDP.
Justice Kolawole refused to award costs against the appellant as sought by the respondents, adding that the application was not an abuse of court processes.
“The appellant motion on notice filed on October 27, 2021, fails and is hereby dismissed. By the power of this decision, the 6th respondent is empowered on the authority of this court’s decision to hold its national convention without any hindrance,” Justice Kolawale declared.
Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, counsel for Secondus, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), said the dismissal of his client’s application was not the end of it as the instructions of the appeal were still alive.
He said, “The court has directed that the PDP can continue with the national convention. However, the instruction is that the appeal continues and depending on the outcome of the appeal, if it succeeds then it has an impact on whatever decision is taken on the national convention.
“So, it’s still not over. We still have an appeal pending before this court (Court of Appeal) waiting to be taken. That is when the court said they would give us a date to come and argue. It is the outcome of that that would determine the validity or otherwise (of our case).”
On his part, Henry Bello, counsel for the 1st to 5th respondents (Rivers local government council chair who took Secondus to the state High Court), who spoke on behalf of the respondents said the ruling was a ticket to a hitch-free national convention as scheduled.
Bello stated, “The Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt has delivered a considered ruling, where the court has dismissed the application of the appellant/applicant, Uche Secondus, to stop the national convention of the PDP.
“Rather, the court has ordered the PDP to go ahead with its national convention unhindered.”
On August 23, 2021, some PDP members instituted a suit at the Rivers State High Court with Secondus and the PDP as defendants.
On September 10, the court delivered its judgement and restrained Secondus from performing the duties of the party’s national chairman.
Secondus subsequently filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal on October 14, seeking an order of injunction restraining the PDP from holding or conducting the national convention, pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal.
Impunity must be resisted, I’ll go on appeal – Secondus
Reacting to the ruling, Secondus said he disagreed with it, but still respected it.
Secondus in a statement released by his Media Adviser, Ike Abonyi, said the ongoing case was not about him but the need to protect the sanctity of the party’s constitution.
The statement said, “I have just been briefed on the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt dismissing my motion to halt the National Convention of the party. I respect the position of the court even though I disagree totally with it.
“Even as the substantive case is still pending at the Court of Appeal, I have instructed my lawyers to study the ruling with a view to appealing it immediately as no abuse of the constitution of our dear party should be allowed to stand.
“The issue is not about Prince Uche Secondus but about the sanctity of our party constitution and core democratic principles of justice and rule of law not only in PDP but in our democracy. No impunity must be condoned.
“I will therefore wish to emphasise the fact that I did not take the party to court and would not have done that. As a foundation member of this party who has served at various levels as state chairman, chairman of state chairmen, National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Chairman, Acting National Chairman and now National Chairman, I am very much abreast with the workings of the party. I have been a witness to how much harm litigations have done to our party in the past and as a result, I have been a strong advocate against settling issues in courts.”
He said he resisted pressures mounted on him to go to court to stop those planning against him because of his love for the party, adding that he did not want to be seen as someone who took the party to court.
He added, “This was why I resisted and rejected entreaties of those who wanted me to go to court to halt these forces when it was obvious that they were determined to disrupt my leadership and truncate my tenure in office with the sole objective of hijacking the party for their selfish, ulterior motives.
“To allow this travesty to stand is to reduce our beloved party to a level where anybody can wake up overnight and remove officers against the proscribed constitutional process and the National Chairman for that matter, purporting to use the judiciary through an ex parte order to legitimise same.
“As a major practitioner in our democracy, I am duty-bound to protect and defend the sanctity of the provisions of our constitution of which I am the custodian.
“I wish to at this juncture thank and appreciate leaders and other stakeholders of our party who have called to express their concerns on this matter and appeal for the understanding of all.”
He noted that if those who orchestrated and foisted the avoidable crisis on the party had listened to the wise counsel of party leaders and elders who advised the withdrawal of cases, the current situation would have been avoidable. I wish the party well as always.”
No individual can derail PDP’s mission, says Wike
Meanwhile, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has said no individual, including Secondus, can derail the party’s mission to rescue Nigeria.
Wike alleged that Secondus’ attempt to scuttle the PDP National Convention had made him an enemy of the party that resolved to end the poor leadership of the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government.
The governor spoke in Port Harcourt on Friday while reacting to the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of Secondus’ application that sought to stop the PDP convention and his reinstatement as the national chairman of the party.
Wike, in a statement by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, stated that PDP’s mission to rescue Nigeria was a commitment that would not be compromised because of the mess the APC had made of Nigeria.
The statement read, “What Secondus is doing is to sabotage the efforts of Nigerians, the efforts of the PDP to rescue this country from the party that has failed the country and it is not fair.
“This is a party that has given you everything and there is nothing wrong in making sacrifices. Even if, assuming though not conceding, anything was wrong, we expected that having achieved the much you have from this party, there is nothing wrong in making sacrifices.
“If you make sacrifices for the party, you’re making sacrifices for Nigerians. If PDP is not there, which other party is ready to rescue Nigeria?”
Wike clarified that the Court of Appeal did not only dismiss Secondus’ application but also ordered that the PDP National convention be conducted unrestrained.
He added, “Our constitution provides that if a national chairman is removed, the deputy national chairman from that zone will immediately be the chairman or acting chairman as the case may be.
“So, when Secondus was removed, he handed over to the acting national chairman now. So, the act has already been done, completed. What will the court say when someone is already acting and supervising that office.”
The governor said the party, particularly the PDP governors “are more united because they have realised that Nigeria is in a problem and only a united PDP can wrest power from the APC.”
He added, “Nigeria is in a problem and we cannot do it alone. We require everybody to work with us collectively and see how this country can be rescued. Nigerians are not happy with the ruling party and as it is today, PDP is the only platform that will rescue Nigeria.”
He noted that the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, had recently led a team of his colleagues to Ondo State to woo the former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, into the PDP.
“Anybody who crosses our path to stop this rescue of Nigeria, the person is an enemy of this country,” the statement added.
Victory was for democracy – Caucus
The leader of the party’s caucus in the House of Representatives, Mr Kingsley Chinda, has described the dismissal of the appeal filed by Secondus against the party as victory for democracy.
Chinda, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria said neither Secondus nor the PDP won the case, noting that the victory was for all Nigerians.
He promised that regardless of the outcome of the judgment, Secondus would work closely with the party to enthrone good leaders in future elections.
He said, “It is a welcome development and it strengthens our democracy, which restates that power belongs to the people. However, regardless of the judgment, neither the PDP nor Secondus won. The victory was for the people of Nigeria and indeed democracy.”
Governors root for Arapaja, party elders favour Oyinlola
There are indications that the party’s National Convention of the PDP may further create a gulf in the rank of its members.
Chief among the bone of contention is the decision of some of the governors to ditch a former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola for Taofeek Arapaja for the position of the deputy national chairman (South).
Arapaja, who is the current South-West deputy chairman of the party, was among those campaigning for Oyinlola with the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, as the arrowhead.
But in a dramatic twist, Arapaja, who like Oyinlola defected from the PDP but later returned, later showed interest in the office of the national deputy chairman of the party.
His impulsive decision and that of those backing him was said to have been necessitated by the PDP governors resolve to zone the office of the party’s national chairman to the northern part of the country.
Following the zoning, which had been ratified by the party’s National Executive Committee, the northern caucus of the PDP had nominated a former President of the Senate in the Third Republic, Iyorchia Ayu, for the office.
Secondus suit’s ruling: Uncertainty reigns as 3,600 delegates arrive in Abuja for PDP convention
Ayu, who is from Benue State, is the sole candidate for the office. His election is expected to be ratified by the about 3,600 delegates at Eagles Square, Abuja on Saturday.
However, the South-West caucus of the party had not been able to impress on either Arapaja or Oyinlola to step down for the other.
Oyinlola is believed to have the support of the leaders of the party, while the governors are said to be backing Arapaja.
Sources close to the governors said they believed they would be able to control Arapaja, especially if he eventually becomes the national chairman should the party produce a northerner as its presidential candidate for the 2023 election and Ayu is made to resign.
The source said, “The governors do not want to take chances. That is why they impressed it on Makinde to search for an alternative candidate because they see Oyinlola as formidable and might not be easy to manipulate.
“Apart from being a former governor, Oyinlola is also a former military administrator of Lagos State between 1993 and 1996 when most of the present governors were either struggling to make ends meet.
“Also, you know the party’s constitution provides that if the party produces a president from one zone, another zone should be made to produce the national chairman. That is what the governors are preparing for.”
Govs meet, to release ‘Unity list’ at Eagles Square
As a way of making sure their candidates win in the remaining three offices, the PDP governors met in Abuja last night. Our correspondent gathered that the governors would release the names of their preferred candidates for the three offices where consensus had yet to be reached.
Among some of the governors that met at the Plateau State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja yesterday were the governors of Delta State (Ifeanyi Okowa), Enugu State (Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi), Benue State (Samuel Ortom), Abia State (Okezie Ikpeazu) and Taraba State (Darius Ishaku).
“Other governors later joined them. Apart from that, they also had some unofficial meetings where decisions were harmonised and the governors decided to release what I can call ‘Unity list’ through their cronies to the delegates at the convention venue on Saturday,” the source added.
The governors and other stakeholders also met last night at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s lodge in Abuja.
Only three posts are to be contested today – Fintiri
The Governor of Adamawa State and Chairman of the party’s National Convention Planning Committee, Ahmadu Fintiri, said only three positions – Deputy National Chairman (South), National Auditor and Youth Leader – would be contested at the convention.
There are 21 seats in the National Working Committee of the PDP.
Fintiri, however, said delegates would still cast ballots for all the positions despite that 80 per cent of the positions in the NWC would be contested unopposed.
The governor also said the poll would take an open-secret ballot mode.
Fintiri made this known at a press conference in Abuja on Friday.
He said, “All the positions being contested for are fully occupied. The result of the Screening Committee was submitted to me yesterday (Thursday) and all the positions and individuals that were disqualified were further upheld by the Appeal Committee.
“At the moment, we are making efforts to reconcile most of our contestants so that we can streamline them to have a better convention, which will be hitch-free and deepen our chances for 2023 elections. Most of the positions as of today, except for three, would not be contested.
“For Saturday, the problem has reduced significantly. At the moment, we are talking to those that are contesting the offices of the Deputy National Chairman (South), National Auditor and National Youth Leader.
“I think at the moment it is just the offices that still have many people contesting for them. The rest have been streamlined and the consensus looks okay.”
The Screening Sub-Committee of the PDP had disqualified three aspirants from vying for positions in the NWC.
The disqualified aspirants were Prof Wale Oladipo (Osun) who expressed interest in the position of Deputy National Chairman (South); Okey Muo-Aroh (Anambra), National Secretary; and Dr Eddy Olafeso (Ondo), National Publicity Secretary.
Speaking on the disqualification of Muo-Aroh, Fintiri said, “Clearly, we have a section that defines zoning in our constitution. That position was zoned to the South, micro-zoned to South-East and in the South–East, the caucus met and zoned it to Abia and Imo states, while the office of the National Auditor was zoned to Enugu and Anambra states.
“The gentleman in question is from Anambra State. We would have expected him as the party man to respect the zoning and the arrangements of the caucus in the zone and for him to contest the office of the Auditor which was zoned to his state, but he moved to Imo and Abia states to buy form. I think every institution and organisation must have a way to discipline its members.”
The governor also noted that the PDP was verifying its delegates’ list to determine former public office holders and defectors.
According to him, “We will expect 3,600 delegates tomorrow. We are still packaging the list of delegates. You know PDP has produced a lot of officials for this country and our constitution has also allowed for some former ‘this’ and former ‘that’ and we have people that have crossed over to the other side.
“So, we have to be careful so that we don’t include them. But at the moment, I think we are satisfied that we have brought the list to where we feel we are okay.”
Speaking on petitions against some of the cleared candidates, he noted that the appeal panel had found most of the petitions against those that had been cleared baseless and frivolous and had been discarded.”
The governor added, “On the Deputy National Chairman (North), as I told you, we are still talking. The 35 per cent affirmation for women is not properly defined in the party’s constitution as to which positions should go to a woman or which position should go to men, as it also indicates the provision of Section 42 in Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“So, we are talking and I think we would have definite positions for women in our next constitution amendment probably next year because this is a party that respects women.”
Speaking on the litigations against the PDP regarding delegates’ list, Fintiri added, “Ekiti State case is a treated matter. The other faction has got a judgment from the High Court and we have not received any superior judgment. I think we have to respect what the court asks us to do. It is not the choice of any sub-committee or the convention committee to decide what the court has already decided on.”
The governor also spoke on the issue of consensus candidate for Deputy National Chairman (North), for which a former Minister of Women Affairs, Inna Ciroma, is contesting.
Fintiri said the matter would be resolved on Saturday. “It will be made clear by tomorrow. As I told you, there are positions and there are people that we are still talking to,” he added.
Secondus-led NWC to remain in office till December 9 – Fintiri
Fintiri also announced that the party’s NWC led by Secondus would remain in office despite the fact that members of a new committee would be elected at the convention.
The tenure of the outgoing members of the NWC, who were elected on December 9, 2017, is expected to expire on December 9, 2021. The party’s constitution gives them four-year tenure.
He stated, “There would be no vacuum in the NWC because we are not truncating anybody’s tenure. We only called for an early convention which is also provided for in the constitution. They will still serve their term until December 9, 2021. If anything, this would avail a smooth transition.”
Meanwhile, an Edo State High Court sitting in Benin has restrained the National Vice Chairman (South-South) of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, and the State Secretary of the party, Hilary Otsu, from participating in the convention.
Justice Joy Okeaya-Inneh gave the interim injunction on Friday in a motion ex parte filed by Chief Idehen Manfred Ekundayo, Mr Stanley Iduoze and Odior Omadimhe (Claimants) in the suit marked B/218/os/2021.
The court listed Samuel Saiki, Vincent Ekpomhoriri Umoru, Leslie Ebozoje, David Okoh Aigbodion (also known as Arizona) and Abdulkareem Kassim as Defendants in the suit.
Others are Kayode Ogunubi, Omoregie Ogbeide Ihama (House of Representatives member representing Oredo Federal Constituency), Mr Oduwa Igbinosun and Mr Friday Enaruna, excluding the PDP, which was also listed as 12th defendant in the suit.
Justice Okeaya-Inneh restrained the defendants from attending, participating or voting at the convention pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
The court also directed the PDP to deny the 1st-11th defendants admittance to the convention.
Abuja hotels increased price
Members and non-members of the PDP found it difficult to get accommodation in Abuja on Friday, as politicians and loyalists of the PDP stormed the nation’s capital for the convention.
Checks by one of our correspondents at the hotels in and around the Central Business District, Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse and Garki showed that most of the rooms had been fully booked while the prices had been inflated.
An aggrieved regular visitor to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, said, “I called a hotel that I use regularly. The room used to be N10,000 but I called them to book a room and they told me it had increased to N15,500. They told me outright that the increase was due to the convention and the increased patronage,” he said.
Govs, Sambo, Atiku, NASS members meet, seek consensus for all positions
Some party leaders met on Friday to receive briefings from the organising committee and sub-committees on the level of preparedness for the convention.
At the meeting held behind closed doors at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge in the Asokoro area of Abuja were governors led by Tambuwal.
Governors at the meeting included the host, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; Seyi Makinde and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State.
Former Vice-Presidents Atiku Abubakar and Namadi Sambo were also present.
Also at the meeting were a former President of the Senate, David Mark; another former President of the Senate and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; and Deputy Minority Leader, House of Representatives,Toby Okechukwu.
Others are former Governor of Katsina State, Shehu Shema; former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; former Governor of Kaduna State and ex-National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; former Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, among others.
Addressing journalists after the meeting that lasted over three hours and ended at about 9:10pm, Tambuwal said the stakeholders were talking to the aspirants such that the party would have all the NWC positions with unopposed candidates.
The governor said, “The convention committee has assured us that everything is being done for us to have a successful, hitch-free convention. As we have promised, we are still working on having a consensus on virtually all the positions. So far, we have achieved 85 to 90 per cent of that and by the grace of God, work is still in progress. Our leaders are going to continue to talk to the remaining contestants and see how best we can achieve that consensus.
“We thank God and our leaders for their full participation. By the grace of God, the PDP is back and at the end of the convention tomorrow through to Sunday, we are going to have, by the grace of God, a repositioned PDP that will be ready to receive many more people soonest.”